Wow! Over 100 music fans were treated to world renown fiddler Richard Wood and Gordon Belsher at the Sunshine Club on Saturday, February 24. Their combination of exceptional talent and warm expressive engagement with the audience wowed the Vegreville audience for over 2 hours!
Both performers from Prince Edward Island are internationally seasoned musicians. Richard Wood is an amazing fiddler who has performed at Carnegie Hall with the Chieftains, on the David Letterman Show with Shania Twain, and for royalty including the Queen of England and the Emperor of Japan. Gordon Belsher is a master of Celtic guitar (DADGAD tuning) rhythms and song who has also toured extensively across North America, Europe, Australia and Japan.
Together they concluded their four week 8 stop tour of British Columbia and Alberta at Festival Place on Friday and in Vegreville on Saturday. They have been performing together since 1995.
On behalf of the Sunshine Club, Emcee Don Harfield welcomed the audience and introduced the guest performers.
Richard Wood opened their first hour long set with a selection of jigs in E minor demonstrating his stylistic ornamentation on the fiddle. Gordon Belsher followed with the Islanders song by Gary Fjellgaard leading into a couple of reels. Gordon sang the Beatles song I’ll Follow the Sun to the tempo of a lilting jig. Richard performed the instrumental Crossroads by fiddler Irene Iris followed by a medley of Scottish and Quebecois tunes of the late Winston Scotty Fitzgerald of Cape Breton.
Gordon then led the audience in a singalong of I’m Not Old Yet from his CD of the same name. Richard then performed a new tune Sweet Baby Finnegan’s Lullaby soon to be recorded for his Godson. Finishing the first set was Gordon singing the Prince Edward Island, the Cradle of Canada written last year for the Canada 150 celebrations and Richard performing a medley of tunes in a tribute to Don Messer including Red Wing and Devil’s Dream.
During the intermission, the audience refuelled with great food and refreshments from the hands of chef Hlady and Bob Carter of the Sunshine Club Kitchen. CD sales were brisk with signings by the artists. All the while, the watchful eye of the “wee tiger” was on stage, which Richard Wood later explained originated during a tour of the U.K.
Returning to the stage at 8:45 pm, Richard Wood led off with a medley of tunes from Scotland, Ireland and Spain including New Galicia. Gordon Belsher then performed his new song I Miss Mainstreet (of my small town) which resonated with the Vegreville audience. Gordon then sang the Ballad of St. Anne’s Reel followed by the Richard’s rendition of the classic tune Westfalia Waltz and Gordon singing the Steve Earl song Galway Girl.
Switching keys with the greatest of ease, Richard performed a traditional medley of recognizable “comfort” style tunes including Rode to the Isles. Richard’s energetic and enthusiastic style continued to engage the audience with percussive footwork on a plywood board on stage reminiscent of Stomping Tom Connors. Richard then performed his interpretation of Johnny Cash’s Cocaine Blues. Gord performed his song Lucky Star which highlighted his adept guitar style and shifted keys with the almost unnoticeable removal of his guitar capo midway through the song.
Richard then performed a medley of Irish jigs by the band Nomos followed by an amazing tune Celtic Touch which he wrote for his first major tour at the early age of 15. Richard and Gordon closed of the evening’s performances with a Finale in a series of fiddle tunes in the keys of A, D, F and B minor.
Showing great appreciation of the duo, the audience spontaneously rose to their feet for a standing ovation and calls for “more”. Richard and Gordon responded with an encore of the song Paper Moon and the fiddle tune Clumsy Lover.
Through the two hours of amazing music and song, Wood & Belsher endeared themselves to Vegreville music fans with the sense we will see them again, hopefully soon!
The Sunshine Club thanks members Don Harfield as Emcee, Randy Kereliuk as sound tech, Rob Hughes as photographer, and Carol Larrivee as greeter.
Photography by Rob Hughes